As dozens of players, coaches and parents streamed into Sid Augarten Field after their opening day parade on Saturday, the loudspeakers blared John Fogerty’s baseball anthem “Put Me in, Coach.”
Though probably played at dozens of Little League opening days across the country, Fogerty’s lyric, “We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field,” had particular resonance for members of the North Riverdale Baseball League.
For years, Sid Augarten Field, located at Vinmont Veteran Park on West 254th Street, was a mess. The ballfield — named for a former coach, commissioner and president of the North Riverdale Little League, Sid Augarten — had an infield full of divots, a decrepit outfield covered in splotches of grass and drainage problems that caused constant flooding. Field conditions were so bad that state Little League officials would not allow tournament games there for fear that players would get injured.
Shovels finally hit the ground in August 2008, initiating the field’s first major renovation since the early 1970s, but because of mind-boggling delays and red tape, season after season was lost. Construction concluded last year, but not in time for baseball season.
However, with a spring breeze in the air and a sea of smiling young Little Leaguers on what appeared to be a nicely renovated field, the nightmare of the field’s renovation faded into the past.
“It feels new, there are no bumps on the field except the pitcher’s mound,” said Connor Cagney, a pitcher and first baseman for the Major Division Dodgers, who played the Yankees in the opening game at the restored field. “It’s great to be on a good field.”
In 2007, Councilman Oliver Koppell and then Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion allocated funds to fix Sid Augarten Field.
Councilman Oliver Koppell secured $1 million of the $1.7 million needed to renovate the baseball diamond, with an additional $610,000 from the borough president’s office and $100,000 directed from the mayor’s office.